The Debate: Inside Cats Versus Letting Outside

We have two kittens - 4 mos old now, who were found along the road. I’d like to keep them inside because of the risks outdoors. Neighbor cats are mean and we have coyotes. Somehow our last cat managed it all but did die at 10 and the vet felt possible fungus related lung disease from being an outdoor cat.

We have a huge cat tree and lots of big windows with ledges, all sorts of cat toys and no declaw. My DH feels it is sensory deprivation to keep them inside and we should let them out and slowly introduce. But you know where this goes. They’ll start darting out. The outdoors is a smorgasbord of sounds, smells, stimuli. It’s much more fun out there…until it isn’t.


Being “dinner” is the ultimate sensory deprivation!

Indoor cats lead fulfilling lives, especially if you are interacting with them and they have their spaces, which you do. But if you want to go all in, give them a catio. And if that’s not possible, window bird feeders (or feeders near the window) are the ultimate cat tv.


I’ve shoveled too many cat body parts off the road to let them live outside. We used to have a cat colony at the neighbor’s farm, they never did figure the road out; but the road certainly helped reduce the cat numbers… I’ve also dealt with the carcasses (usually regurgitated on a rug) of way, way too many birds, amphibians, and reptiles in addition to the rodents. As for coyotes, pretty routine here for people to post about missing cats, and unlike the missing dogs those posts on social media rarely end well.
For the last five years we have had no outdoor cats in the immediate area, I don’t think the increase in birds over the same period is simply a coincidence as nothing else has changed.
Do people have barn cats? Yes. Do I sort of wish I had one at times, given the vole population? Yes. But I love my cats and I like my wildlife. So indoor only it is. Maybe in a very rural area I would have different attitude because the road and the suburban coyotes wouldn’t be as much of a factor, but I am not sure.


As someone who just lost a very special cat to the road, please please please keep them inside.


If you want an outdoor cat, trap an adult stray. They know how to survive and the ones that make it to adulthood are the winners of the steep attrition.

If you like your kittens, and want them to be around for years, keep them inside.


Inside. No question.


Inside with an outdoor enclosure…all six of them.


Inside. Check out the Ohio state indoor cat initiative for ideas to stimulate. Doc and phoebe feeding system for hunting instincts. Could build a catio for some outdoor like feeling.

Outside cats contribute to decimation of native birds and small mammal populations


Another vote for inside. Five of mine are indoor only and are fine with it. Itty-bitty and Hammie have never asked to go outside. (Well, itty-bitty did until she dashed out once without my noticing; after an hour outside in 25-degree temps, she has never asked again!).

My barn cats were born outside and raised outside. They sleep in crates in the barn at night. Even so, I have lost one to who-knows-what, one to FIV, and one to complications of histoplasmosis. They’re smart, but I am always aware of the dangers.


Indoors only. Two great reasons:

  1. Life expectancy outdoors? 2-5 years. Indoors? 13-17 years (according to the web - when I worked at a shelter we would say 7 years outdoor, 15 yrs indoor)

  2. Wildlife. “Cats have contributed to the extinction of 63 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles in the wild.” Source. And “domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually.” Source

If you can’t keep an indoor cat entertained, don’t get one - that’s my advice!


I have mine inside because of all the dangers that others have listed. I have been feeding two ferals that show up from time to time. They seem to visit all the neighbors to see who puts out the best cat food. I worry about them in winter and have some insulated cat boxes for them as well as heated water bowls.

My dream is to have a catio on the back of the house for my indoor cats. They like to sit in the windows and look out so I think they would enjoy it. Oh well, someday!


Inside and play with them. Our cats have a play routine, cat tree, sunny spots, and interaction with each other. Two kittens is the way to go. If they get lazy when they’re older, even the biggest couch potato type cats get in shape after a week of some rigorous play sessions. They might still be chunky, but their reaction times are much quicker and they play longer. Catios are the latest thing, and great, if you can afford it. If not, your cat will still be fine if you take the time to play with them.

Our niece’s cat came to live with us. She was indoor/outdoor and weighs close to twenty pounds. She is less lazy inside because we try to get her to play. Before, she would just lay around on the porch or wait next to her bowl for the next feeding. Outdoor doesn’t mean they will be in shape or stimulated. It does mean they will be exposed to cars, dogs, angry neighbors, mean kids, and rat poison.


I want to second the whole TNR route for an outdoor cat. We love our TNR cats. They do their job (lowering the vermin level in the barn), and we provide food, water, and shelter (heated in winter) and as much human interaction as they are interested in having.


Agree. My barn cats have always been “street cats” who came with life skills pre installed and who would not make it as indoor pets (and had flunked out of several tries at it before coming to me). A cat with the possibility of an indoor home (yours) should have that indoor home. If you need an outdoor cat specifically for that purpose, find one who is already too far down that path to become an indoor cat. Don’t sentence a kitten to a dangerous life when there’s a better alternative.


If you use 2nd hand lumber you can make one for a reasonable price. Home Depot has a lumber off cut section where it’s really cheap and they’ll even cut it to your specifications at no charge. The only things I paid for was the chicken wire, nails, screws and staples. I’ve built three in the last 11 years, they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing but the cats don’t care. I believe indoor cat’s behaviours and bad habits drastically improve when they have outdoor enclosures. I have the materials ready to build a cat tree as soon as I find the time. I’m replacing a cat tree that I bought, the Kittens with Mittens have destroyed it because it was too flimsy to outlast them.


I don’t have catio (currently), but do supervised patio time with my cat. She really enjoys getting to go out, lay in the sun, and chew on the grass. I think it’s a good compromise to keep her and the wildlife safe, though it does require me finding something to do while standing in the doorway everyday during the PNW summer.

I also do cat trees at the major windows. My girl loves laying in her hammock and watching the squirrels and bunnies go by.

We had indoor/outdoor cats when I was growing up. I’d never in my life trade their safety like that now.


That sounds awesome! We would need to do some renovations to our place to keep heat in and bugs out. :frowning:

However, I do have harnesses that fit and I’m not afraid to use them. :smile_cat:

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I bought a chicken coop thing then converted it into a place out doors for the cats, otherwise I think the cats would have become coyote food

I put it on my son’s old go cart trailer so it can be moved around (it is strapped to the trailer)

and daughter would leash the cat to her dog so they could go for walks


@clanter :+1:
That is Awesome!
& I’m sure the cats LOFF it :heart_eyes_cat:

When I was (much) younger & lived in the Big City, my cats were In/Out.
All lived to a ripe old age - avg 17 - and died of Old Cat things: kidney failure, malignancy.
Then I got older & less inclined to let them out.
I brought 2 housecats to my farm & acquired 2 kittens for the barn.
Strays that wandered up my driveway around 8wks old on the 4th of July.
Named them Independence (gray tux female) & Day (orange male).
Sadly Day was hit by a car at 6mos, just after I had both neutered :sleepy:
Indy stayed on, sweetest 8# of Verminator ever! :heart_eyes:
Succumbed to a stroke at 10.

I intended to replace her with kittens from a shelter that specifically placed barncats.
Both housecats were long gone by then & the idea of no litterbox appealed :wink:
But when I discovered a huge raccoon terrorizing the caged kittens in the barn, I (foolishly) relocated them to my basement.
Thinking they could go back to the barn when they were bigger…
7yrs later I have 2 Indoor Only cats.
Both have shown Zero interest in the outdoors.
Unless you count birdwatching from the LR windows :roll_eyes:


they beg to go out to their cottage… the thing cost less the $200 assembled, has been priceless as the cats love to be tormented by the birds eating in the feeders which also attract an endless stream of squirrels who can climb a round steel pipe to get to the bird feeders